I have had to face and overcome a few great fears in life. There was the time I had to meet my [future] father-in-law to ask his permission to marry Aileen. There was the time I first stood in front of a church and attempted to preach a sermon. There was the time I first walked out onto a stage at a conference and attempted to say something intelligible. At times like these I feel the full weight of inadequacy and incomplete preparation. But nothing quite compares to parenting, and parenting girls in particular. Raising a boy sounds simple enough—I have lots of experience being a boy and growing to a man. But raising girls is a whole new world of challenge.
I guess Byron Yawn has felt some of this. He begins the book What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her with these words: “I am not a woman” and goes on to explain that he lacks credibility when it comes to writing this very book. Because he is not a woman, he faces quite a disadvantage in writing about women, and about what young women need from their fathers. Wisely (and thankfully) he recruited his wife Robyn to help him, and together they have crafted quite a helpful book.
This is a book about that unique and uniquely amazing father-daughter relationship. And Yawn gets this relationship. He understands that remarkably powerful bond. I am the father of two girls and see it especially in the oldest (though increasingly in the youngest). The way she depends on me, the way she admires me, the way she loves me with such sweet fierceness—all of these intimidate me at times because they show me what a challenge I face in protecting her, in loving her, in leading her, in preparing her. They show me what I stand to lose if I fail.
This book is about “the frameworks of security and love a dad provides (or should) a daughter, allowing her the space of self-discovery and the freedom to grow in her femininity without fear or concern. Dad is a shelter. There are things he can say and do while he has that little girl under his care that help her take flight and stay airborne over the course of her life. It is advice a daughter needs that can only come from dear old dad. This book offers an understanding of the heart of a man, which a woman needs but can only get from the humble confession of a man. A man like dad.”
As he goes, the Yawns cover subjects like love and purity and biblical womanhood and leadership and beauty and strength and so much else. What they write is firmly grounded in biblical truth, yet also very practical in nature. There are equal parts humor and poignancy. They continually push away from cultural cliches, from Christian buzzwords, and from moralism nicely wrapped up in biblical language. In their place they talk about the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection and how it transforms everything about life and parenting and marriage and all the rest.
There is much to commend What Every Woman Wishes Her Father Had Told Her. Yet the book is, unfortunately, not as strong as Yawn’s prequel What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, largely because at times the Yawns seem to get unmoored from their purpose, and especially so through several middle chapters. It transitions from being a book written to challenge fathers in raising their girls, to a book about women in general. It is at its strongest when it focuses narrowly on the father and his daughter. Those middle chapters are not wasted as they teach important truths in helpful ways. Still, it feels like the book drifts a little bit, almost like there are two books wrapped up between the covers.
It is still a book that is well worth reading and one that contains what it promises: a warm and poignant glimpse at the kind of love every dad can and should have for his daughter. I am thankful to have read it and am grateful for the challenges it levelled at me.